Norwegian Father & Son Duo Seize the ARC Double-handed

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Here's yet another report from the ARC finish in St. Lucia that I've been working on. This one is particularly significant to me because of the subject(s). Sven and his dad Kenneth sailed all the way down from Norway together, joining the ARC in St. Lucia, and have a one-year plan to go off on this great adventure together, just the two of them.

My website, in fact, began as fathersonsailing.com, thanks to all of the sailing I've done with my dad Dennis. Back in 2006, I was off to Bermuda for my first delivery. I wanted to take business cards along, but realized that 'Andy Schell Sailing' could be abbreviated 'A.S.S.' - and that's no good! Thus, 'Father & Son Sailing' was born. Since then, my dad and I have done more offshore sailing than ever. Hence my interest in this story. Check it out, it's a good one...

For Sven-Aage Lyngsgaard and his dad Kenneth, the 2012 ARC was a dream five years in the making. Lifelong motor boaters from Norway, the father and son duo were never sailors, but in 2007, a spark of an idea formed, and the rest is history.

I had a chance to sit down with Kenneth and his son Sven on their boat in Rodney Bay Marina a couple of days ago. We’d gotten a list of story leads from the main office in Cowes (having missed out on Las Palmas, I’m still trying to get to know all of the sailors here in St. Lucia, and feel a bit like a stranger here). The father-son lead caught my eye immediately, thanks to my own relationship with my dad. I was anxious to hear what these guys had to say.

“I got the idea from some young Norwegians we met on a boat tour in the north of Norway,” Kenneth began. “I talked to them, and they said they would go this route. I started to check a little bit and we started to talk over it at home. At first it was just a dream.”

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Atlantis in the fjords of Norway

But unlike many people, Kenneth and Sven took that dream and made it into a reality. What started as an idea gradually formed into a plan. They started looking for a boat, and soon Atlantis, their Bavaria 38, the yacht they’d dreamed about came into being.

“Suddenly,” said Kenneth, “we had a sailboat. There was no reason not to do it!”

It’s not uncommon in stories like the Lyngsgaard’s for almost cosmic-like forces to seemingly align when goals are set and actions are put into motion. Subconsciously, minor decisions in life coalesce to create a positive atmosphere around the whole project, and it begins to take on a life of it’s own. That was most definitely the case for Sven and his dad.

They’re not the only father and son pair in the ARC this year, but they’re unique in that they’ve taken on this challenge as a pair, just the two of them sailing Atlantis double-handed for the entirety of the Atlantic circle. Indeed it’s not just the ARC they’ve set out for, but a year of sailing, which began far north in Norway, and which – they hope – will end there again next summer. In a way, the father and son project has been a lifetime in the making.

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Provisioning Atlantis for the long trip.

“When he was a young boy, I was working very much, also traveling a lot,” Kenneth told me, describing the history of their relationship. “I was only home on the weekends. But later we started doing a lot together. Most summers we have been on the motorboat, have been all the way to the north of Norway.”

For the ARC, Kenneth took a year away from work – unpaid – and Sven is on a gap year after having finished high school, prior to joining the Norwegian Navy next fall when he returns. His father reckons this trip ought to be a good mark on his CV one day.

The foundation of their father-son dynamic was built around activity and the outdoors. I imagine it is partly due to their being Norwegian, and the remarkable natural environment that surrounds them. But I think what the have is special as well, and you could see it simply by the way they interacted with one another during my chat with them.

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Relaxing offshore - clever idea with the spin pole!

Sven continued, telling me how he grew up playing sports as a kid in Norway, beginning with football but quickly boring of it before getting into other adventures. “I started in martial arts, called Tae Kwan Do. I’ve been doing it for 8 years now and got a blackbelt last December,” Sven told me. We were sitting in the cockpit of Atlantis at Rodney Bay Marina. I was recording them, mainly to get quotes for this story, but also in the hopes that I could use the chat for my Two Inspired Guys podcast. I think they’ll make perfect guests.

I’d asked Sven if he played sports, which is how we got on the topic of martial arts. He’s a very fit dude, quite obviously not your average teenager. In fact, Sven’s exceptional fitness is part of the reason he and his father get along so well on the boat offshore. They divide up the duties accordingly, and each takes full responsibility for their own roles.

“I am the captain, let there be no discussion about that!” Kenneth joked. Which is interesting, because I usually assume the skipper role when my dad and I are sailing. I think it’s partly because of my bull-headedness, as well as my dad’s tendency to sail more conservatively than me. But my dad is really just mellow, and normally doesn’t seem to mind. He’s the best crew offshore – he’ll stand two consecutive watches, sometimes just because he enjoys it so much, and never complains about a thing.

But I must admit I liked the system Sven and Kenneth had on Atlantis.

The younger Lyngsgaard was in charge of the physical stuff – “I have the rigging, and climbing up the mast, the fun stuff!” said Sven – while the elder is responsible for the mechanical bits and the engine, the things that require patience (my dad is also usually responsible for that stuff as well, not surprisingly. I hate engines. And I’m very impatient).

They also split the household chores, with Kenneth doing all the cooking and Sven all the washing up. Like all double-handers, the dividing of responsibilities comes about due simply to necessity. “We have to do it,” explained Kenneth. “We are only two persons on board.”

But Sven and his dad have the added dynamic of being related to one another. It’s one thing being married – Mia and I have learned to genuinely enjoy double-handing Arcturus – but it’s another altogether to share the same blood. That brings with it an almost supernatural ability to know one another, and that indeed has contributed to Sven and Kenneth’s success sailing Atlantis.

“As father and son, you always know each other very well,” Kenneth agreed when I brought up the subject. “We know where we are good and strong, and we know where we are weak.”

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Sven having fun offshore.

“I think we have worked really good together,” he continued. “I’m really impressed with Sven. He became 19 years old not so long ago, and 4-hours-on, 4-off is pretty heavy. It’s not much sleep. But when 4 hours was up, he stood right here ready to go on watch, and that’s good.”

It wasn’t all smiles, however. In a 3,000 mile passage, there are bound to be moments of discomfort, anxiety, times when the nerves fray just a little bit and you start to annoy one another. But Sven and his dad simply laughed them off.

“One episode,” Kenneth began, laughing all the while, “I don’t know if I’ll tell it! It was near the start, there was a lot of waves. As I told you, we were two persons up when the weather was bad. I was sleeping on the floor here,” he said, indicating towards the cockpit sole, “ and Sven was steering. Suddenly I wake up, and the cockpit’s full of water! Up to here,” he said, pointing towards the highest comings where the winches were mounted.

Meanwhile, as Kenneth is telling this story, Sven is sitting next to him with a big smile on his face, unable to contain his amusement. Kenneth continued, “I looked Sven in the eyes, and he’s standing with water up to his waist, steering, and yelling, ‘Father! Father! We’re doing 17 knots!’ And then he sees that his father was not really impressed! Then Sven says, very dryly, ‘dad, that looks really uncomfortable.’”

It was during moments like these, I believe, that Sven and Kenneth really learned to work well together, to keep everything in perspective. They fully supported one another both physically and mentally – the former by simply sleeping in the cockpit in heavy weather, and the latter by keeping things in perspective and laughing over what could have been stressful incidents. It must have worked – in a year when almost every boat reported some kind of major breakage – spinnaker poles, blown-up sails, broken steering – Atlantis completed the crossing unscathed. They’re only reported breakage was a couple of dinner plates during one exceptionally roll-y day.

Kenneth was eager to note that despite it being just he and son Sven on the boat itself, the project in the big picture is really a family affair, and he gives a lot of credit to his wife for making the dream a reality.

“In a way it’s a family project,” Kenneth explained. “It’s pretty impressive of my wife to take everything at home,” he added. “My income has stopped, and she has to take care of the two small children. We couldn’t do this if they weren’t positive.”

The family will indeed take part in the project in earnest, and plan to fly to the Grenadines and sail with Sven and Kenneth for a month or so this winter.

Fulfilling his dream with older son Sven has only encouraged Kenneth to aim high with the rest of the family. There are more plans in the works.

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Sven and Kenneth getting their rum punch on arrival in St. Lucia

“The brother and sister to Sven are twins,” Kenneth said. “They are about to turn 9 years old. The brother, his name is Odin. He was a bit anxious to go over the big ocean. So he told me, ‘dad, when I am 18, you have to do the same tour with me, but instead we will do all of the Norwegian coast together.’ In my head,” continued Kenneth, “if he still wants to do this when he is 18, I will do it.”

That’s a pretty cool dad.